The study region
 Results and discussion

Title: Small farming systems in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00073367/00002
 Material Information
Title: Small farming systems in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic
Series Title: Small farming systems in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic
Physical Description: p. 51-55 : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Alvarez, Jose, 1940-
Hildebrand, Peter E
Nova, Josâe Antonio, 1947-
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville FL
Publication Date: 1982
Subject: Farms, Small -- Dominican Republic   ( lcsh )
Field crops -- Dominican Republic   ( lcsh )
Agricultural systems -- Dominican Republic   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Dominican Republic
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 55).
Statement of Responsibility: J. Alvarez, P.E. Hildebrand, and J.A. Nova.
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: Printed in Small Farms Systems of the Caribbean, Proceedings of the 20th Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Food Crops Society (St. Croix, U.S. Virigin Islands, October 21-26, 1984).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00073367
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 76891998

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
    The study region
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Results and discussion
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
Full Text

Small Farming Systems in
Las Cuevas Watershed, Dominican Republic

J. Alvarez

Food and Resource Econ. Dept., Univ. of Florida, B. Glade, FL

P.E. Hildebrand

Food and Resource Econ. Dept.,Univ. of Florida, Gainesville,FL

and J.A. Nova

State Secretariat of Agric., Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Farming systems in the watershed are described. Data were
gathered by a multi-disciplinary team during the summer
of 1982. Sample size was 182. Farming systems identified were (1)
irrigated with a rice base, (2) rainfed with an annual crop
base and minor permanent crops, and 3) predominantly coffee farms
which were not studied in detail. Irrigated farming systems
consisted of sole crops of beans, peanuts and maize in addition to
rice. Rainfed systems consisted of both sole crops and crop
mixtures of beans, maize and pigeon peas. Predominant crop
mixtures are beans-maize, beans-pigeon peas, and beans-pigeon
peas-maize. Peanuts are predominantly sole cropped. Unique to
these systems are: 1) the "convite" system -a social form of
labor sharing for harvest; 2) bean trading between rainfed and
irrigated systems to maintain fresh seed; 3) peanuts to provide
cash, available as a loan from the processing plant. Rainfed
systems and increasing population pressures subject the watershed
to high rates of soil erosion and resulting siltation downstream.

Keywords:Farming systems;Crop systems;Crop associations;"Convite"

Most islands in the Caribbean are experiencing ecological

problems of uncommon magnitude. Small territories and population

pressures are pushing farmers to marginally productive

steeplands. The Dominican Republic is no exception. Antonini et

al. (1981) have summarized the problem in the following manner:

The Dominican Republic today is faced with serious

problems of erosion due to the widespread practice

of slash-and-burn agriculture and the prevalence of

shallow soils on steep slopes. Substantial amounts

of top soil are lost due to poor management prac-

tices and there results greatly reduced soil fer-

tility and crop productivity...As a consequence of

increasing population pressure and a depleting re-

source base, the farm-pasture-fallow cycle is rap-

idly being shortened, the land's capability for

sustained productivity is diminishing, and increas-

ingly more marginal lands are being brought under

cultivation and extensive use. The results of this

deterioration of the Dominican steeplands is af-

fecting not only farmers within the high water-

sheds, but it is also influencing the government's

ability to develop and maintain water resources for

meeting energy, agricultural and human needs (p. 4).

Solving these problems is no easy task. But it seems obvious

that knowing the resources and farming practices prevalent in

these areas provides a good starting point for developing

conservation policies. For that reason, this paper describes

the farming systems in Las Cuevas watershed of the Du.,Ii .-.


The results reported are part of a multi-disciplinary

research effort sponsored by the State Secretariat of Agricultur-

of the Dominican Republic, the Association of Caribbean

Universities & Research Institutes, and the University of

Florida. The final objective of this inter-inutititutional

agreement was to develop an integrated management and protection

plan for Las Cuevas watershed.

The Study Region

Las Cuevas watershed is located on the southwestern flank
of the Cordillera Central and covers approximately 600 km

Antonini et al. (1981, pp. 16-19) have described some of the

region's most important characteristics.

More than 80% of the watershed is mountainous with elevations

ranging between 2,200 and 2,800 m. Plateaus and interior lowlands

account for about 13%, while the rest of the area consists of

flood plains and river terraces.

Dry subtropical conditions prevail in the western-most

portion where the average temperature is 24.5 C and the mean

annual rainfall is about 750 mm. These conditions ey4-. in 12%

of the total area. A wet subtropical life zone covers 15% of the

basin, with more humid conditions but still irregular rainfall

distribution. Some 52% of the area is characterized by low

montane wet forest, with irregular rainfall and periodic frosts.

The very wet low forest accounts for 18% of the area, where mean

annual precipitation is 55% higher than evapu~s, a...ration.

Finally, 3% of the watershed is very wet montane forest in the
eastern portion, with average temperatures of 17.7 C and mean

annual precipitation of 1,750 mm. Frosts are more fre-qent and

average rainfall exceeds evapotranspiration by 60%.

The population of the watershed is 85% rural and 15% urban.

Population estimates for 1981 were 39,411 inhabitants with an
average density of65 persons per km2. The population is expected
average density of 65 persons per km The population is expected

to double by the year 2,000.

About 7,000 families live in the study region. More than

half live in small rural settlements (100 to 2,500 persons) in

the hills or along the terraces and flood plains adjoining the

Las Cuevas river and its tributaries. The greatest number of

families live in isolated hamlets and small agricultural

villages. One road connects these villages with Padre Las Casas,

the only urban center in the area, and most interconnecting dirt

trails become impassable during the rainy season.

Materials and methods

The study area was visited by a multi-disciplinary group in

March 1982. All members were placed on small teams and a type of

"sondeo" following Hildebrand (1981) was conduct-ed. The results

of this visit provided valuable input for developing a

questionnaire which was pre-tested near the end of June. Once

the questionnaire was redesigned, the final interviews were

conducted during the month of July.

The relevant population used was 5,609 households existing

in Las Cuevas watershed according to the 198 population census.

Systematic sampling methods as outlined b; Mendenhall et al.

(1971) were used to draw the sample size. The key variable in the

design was the level of household income and accuracy of the

systematic sample was based on the assumption of random household

income and the advantages of systematic sampling in the field

work (Mendenhall et al., 1971). From tne total population of

5,609 households,. a sample of 286 was selected. Because the

survey was multipurpose, 104 sampled households did not operate

any agricultural enterprise. Thus, the final sample for this study

included 182 agricultural households.

For the purpose of this analysis, relevant classification

criteria were needed. Ruthenberg (1980) has outlined this need

as follows:

In the process of adopting cropping patterns

and farming techniques to the natural, economic

and socio-political conditions of each location

and the aims of the farmers, more or less dis-

tinct farm systems have developed. In fact, no

farm is organized exactly like any other, but

farms producing under similar natural, economic

and socio-institutional conditions tend to be

similarly structured. For the purpose of agri-

cultural development, and to devise meaningful

measures in agricultural policy, it is advisa-

ble to group farms with similar structural

properties into classes. It is important in

this context that relevant r1 '- rication cri-

teria are used and no single criterion allows

the formation of meaningful classes (p. 14).

The cropping patterns and farming systems found in the

watershed were analyzed by clustering the most important crops of

the watershed with homogeneous technology and characteristics. The

classification was based on relevant factors such as irrigated

and rainfed land, type of land preparation, type of planting,

level of input usage, yields and crop cycles.

The final classification of the farming systems included:

(a) short-cycle sole crop systems on irrigated land (beans, rice,

peanuts and maize) or on rainfed land (beans, maize, pigeon peas

and peanuts); (b) short-cycle crop mixtures on rainfed land

(beans-maize, beans-pigeon peas and beans-pigeon peas-maize); (c)

permanent sole crop system (coffee); and (d) permanent crop

mixture system (coffee-bananas).

Results and discussion

Both large and small farms are found throughout the watershed

although half of them contain 3 ha or less land. Excluding the

nine largest farms with 64% of the area, average farm size is

about 5 ha. Slightly over half th farms had only one parcel; the

others were divided into two or three parcels (Table 1). Half the

land area is in pasture, forest or bush and only 10% is in annual

(short season) crops (Table 2).

Coffee is the most important crop and is sole cropped on 675

ha (Table 3). It is associated with bananas on another 71 ha and

with a mixture of other crops ,i A i... Rice and peanuts are only

sole cropped, 78% of the beans are sole cropped but only 18% of

the maize and 10% of tne pigeon peas are grown alone (Table 4).

The most important annual crop associations are bean-pigeon pea,

bean-pigeon pea-maize and bean-maize (Table 5).

Although four major types of farming systems emerged from the

classification, this paper io concerned mainly with short-cycle

sole and associated crop systems on irrigated and on rainfed

Table 1 Land distribution by number of parcels on each farm and percentage
of total area in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic, 1982

Farms Total area
Number of
parcels Number Percentage Ha. Percentage

1 100 55.0 941 36.1

2 67 36.8 967 37.1

3 15 8.2 697 26.8

Total 182 100.0 2605 100.0

Table 2 Land uses found in the 182 surveyed farms in Las Cuevas watershed,
Dominican Republic, 1982

Classification Area (ha) of total

Short-cycle crops 255 9.8

Permanent crops (excluding
coffee and coffee-banana) 49 1.9

Coffee and coffee-banana 746 28.6

Fallow land 203 7.8

Pasture, forest or bush 1352 51.9

Total 2605 100.0

Table 3 Land use
Cuevas watershed,

by sole crop systems in the 182 surveyed farms in Las
Dominican Republic, 1982

Percentage of total
Crop Area (ha) Including coffee Excluding coffee

Rice 23 2.4 7.8

Beans 181 18.7 61.6

Peanut 18 1.8 6.1

Maize 7 0.7 2.4

Pigeon pea 5 0.5 1.7

Coffee 675 69.7

Other 60 6.2 20.4

Total 969 100.0 100.0

Table 4 Land use by crops grown alone and associated in the 182 surveyed
farms in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic, 1982

Area (ha) Percentage of crop
Crop Sole cropped Associated Sole cropped Associated

beans 181 51 78.0 22.0

Maize 7 31 18.4 81.6

Pigeon pea 5 43 10.4 89.6

Coffee 675 71 90.5 9.5

Table 5 Associations of beans, maize and pigeon pea in the 182 surveyed
farms in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic, 1982

Association Area (ha)

Bean-pigeon pea 17

Bean-pigeon pea-maize 16

Bean-maize 10

Other bean associations 8

Other pigeon pea associations 10

Other maize associations 5

Total bean associations 51

Total pigeon pea associations 43

Total maize associations 31

land. The emphasis placed on these systems is related to soil

conservation concerns. Short-cycle crop systems require land

preparation one to three times a year. This permits soil erosion

when farming sloping land. Soil loss is minimal for permanent

crop systems which are prepared and planted only once over many

years. The following sections describe these farming systems.

Short-cycle sole crop systems on irrigated land

These systems are located on lowlands. The four crops

rotated include rice, beans, peanut and maize (Table 6).

Rice is planted once a year, maize and peanuts are planted

twice and beans three times. Land preparation is the same for the

four crops; with oxen and a plow. For 0.6 ha of rice, a nursery

bed of 10 m, where 45 kg of seed are broadcast, is prepared.

Rice transplanting by hand occurs one month after land

preparation. A seed drill with a mule is used to plant the other

three crops. Seed rates are about 73 kg ha1 for rice, between 73

and 87 kg ha- for beans and for peanuts and maize 73 and 22 kg

ha1 respectively.

Fertilization practices are absent in peanut and maize.
However, from 145 to 363 kg ha" urea are applied twice to rice,

and urea or the formula 15-15-15 are used on beans at a rates

between 73 and 254 kg ha-

Weeding is done with machetes in all four crops. No

insecticides are applied to either rice or maize. Beans receive

an application of insecticide mixed with liquid N, while powdered

insecticide is applied once to peanuts.

Table 6 Characteristics of short-cycle sole crop systems on irrigated land in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic, 1982

Land Preparation Planting R Fertilization Weedin Harvesting
Rate 1 Rate feeding Yiel
Crop Rotation Time Means Time Means (kg ha ) Time Type (kg ha ) Time Means Pesticides Time (kg ha ) Marketing

Rice (R) B P Feb.- Oxen Apr.- Hand 73 May(1) Urea 145-363 May- Hand None Aug- 1450-3630 Local millers
with May June(1) Jun.(machete) Sep.
March Flow

B(an (B) R B March Oxen Apr. Seed 73-87 May Urea 73-254 May Hand 1 applic. Jul) 72L-1452 Middlemen
Aug. with Sep. drill Oct. or Oct.(machete) of insect. Dec. at farm gate
Dec. plow Jan. with Feb. 15-15-15 Feb. mixed with March
mule liquid

Peanut(P) R B M March Oxen Apr. Seed 73 None May Hand 1 applic. July 544-1452 Processing
Aug. with Sep. drill Oct.(machete) of powdered Nov plant
plow with insect.

Maize (M) B P March Oxen Apr. Seed 22 None May Hand None July-
Aug. with Sep. drill Oct.(machete) Aug. 363-2250 Middlemen
p.ow with at farm gate
mule Dec-Jan.

Harvesting dates vary among the four crops and wide yield

fluctuations are present. In the case of beans, most of the

farmers harvest by "convite". Under this system, the owner of

the farm prepares a large meal for the men, women and children

working in the harvest and no cash payment is involved. The

people are willing to provide their labor because they receive

the same help when they harvest their own crops. This is a system

of mutual

exchange of labor

for mutual help among

the farmers

and is carried out in a festive mood. The "convite" is also

practiced in other systems where beans are involved; i.e., beans

as sole crop and crop mixtures on rainfed land. Perhaps one

contributing factor is the more complex harvesting and packaging

process involved in bean harvesting. After being pulled by hand,

the dry plants are collected over a canvas and mules are passed

over them to thresh out the grains. Then the grains are cleaned

and sacked.

Marketing for beans and maize is through middlemen at the

farm gate

on these lowland

farms where

access to roads

general. Rice is sold to local millers. All peanut production is

bought by "La Manicera", which is the only peanut processing

plant in the country. This company finances all peanut

production and deducts that money at harvest time. Farmers feel

that peanut production is not profitable but they plant this crop

as a means of obtaining cash from the loan to subsist during th:

period when they do not have another feasible choice.

Short-cycle sole crop systems on rained land

is more

Table 7 shows that bean, maize, pigeon pea and peanut

are the main short-cycle sole crop systems grown on rainfed land.

With the exception of pigeon pea, which is grown only once a

year, crops can be planted twice each year. Land preparation

starts in March for all crops; the second time for bean, maize

and peanut is in August. It is performed by hand with a machete

in the case of pigeon pea, while an oxen with plow or a machete

are used for the other crops.

Planting occurs within a month after the land has been

prepared. All crops are planted by hand with a machete although

in some cases peanut planting is done with a seed drill and a

mule. Seed rates for bean, maize, pigeon pea and peanut are 73,

43, 14, and 80 kg ha respectively. Some of the farmers who

harvest beans in July-August provide bean seed to those who plant

in September with the agreement that when these farmers finish

their harvest in December, they will return an extra 50% of the

seed borrowed. Under this system, the farmers harvesting in July

and August conserve the germination quality of the seed and

obtain a 50% bonus. The farmers planting in September need no

cash for seed purchases.

The use of fertilizers and pesticides are not common.

Weeding is done during the same time of the year for all crops

and is performed with a machete. Yields are lower than those

obtained on irrigated land owing in part to the occurrrnre of

periodic droughts.

Marketing under these systems which are produced on the mor

accessible rainfed lands is very similar to that for irrigated

Table 7 Characteristics of short-cycle sole crop systems on rainfed land in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic, 1982

Planting Harvesting
Planting Fertilization Harvesting
Land preparation Rate and Weeding Yield
Crop Rotation Time Means Time Means (kg ha- ) Pesticide Time Means Time (kg ha ) Marketing

Bean March Oxen w/plow or April Hand 73 Rarely May Hand July 167-725 Middlemen
Aug. hand (machete) Sept. (machete) used Oct. (machete) Dec. at farm gate

Maize March Oxen w/plow or April Hand 43 Rarely May-June Hand Aug.- 363-1183 Middlemen
Aug. hand machetec) Sep. (machete) used Oct-Nov.(machete) Sept. at farm gate

Pigeon pea March Hand April Hand 14 None May-June Hand Jan. 363-1088 Middlemenat
(machete) (machete) (machete) (for 2-3 farm gate or
months) in mules to
nearest market

March Oxen w/plow or
Aug. hand (machete)

April Seed drill
Sep. w/mule or
hand (machete)

80 None

May Hand July 239-624
Oct (machete) Deti.




systems. Peanut production is sold to "La Manicera" under the

same contract discussed above. The other three crops are sold to

middlemen who come with their trucks to purchase the output at

the farm gate or nearest road. Sometimes, pigeon peas are

transported by mules to be sold in the nearest market.

Short-cycle crop mixture systems on rainfed land

Bean-maize, bean-pigeon pea, and bean-pigeon pea-maize (Table

8) are the three most important crop mixtures found on

rainfed land They are grown only once a year with the exception

of bean-maize which is produced twice each year. The bean-pigeon

pea-maize crop mixture is mostly found on more remote farms in

the uplands. Farmers argue that under this system, if one crop

fails it is still possible to obtain some production from the

others; that is, this system guarantees them the possible'. of a

certain amount of food for their families.

Land preparation takes place in March for all crops. A

second crop of bean-maize requires land preparation in August.

For all systems, the land is prepared with oxen and plow or with

a machete.

Planting is done with a machete, opening a small hole in the

soil and dropping in the seed. Seeding rates are similar in all

systems except that less bean seed is used in the bean-pigeon

pea-maize association.

Fertilizers and pesticides are not used in these systems.

Weeding is done by hand with a machete and, in the case of

bean-pigeon pea-maize, is a continuous activity carried out by

Table 8 Characteristics of short-cycle crop mixture systems on rainfed land in Las Cuevas watershed, Dominican Republic, 1982

Land Preparation Planting Fertilization Harvesting
Rate and Weedin Yield
Crop mixture Rotation Time Means Time Means (kg ha ) Pesticide Time Means Time (kg ha ) Marketing

March Oxen w/plow or March Hand Bean: None April Hand Bean: 290-653 Middlemen
Bean-maize Aug. hand (machete) Sep. (machete) 50-73 Oct. (machete) July; at farm gate
Maize: Nov-Dec.
15-22 Maize: 218-580

Bean-maize March Oxen w/plow or April Hand Bean: None May Hand Bean: 181-725 Middlemen
hand (machete) (machete) 50-73 (machete) July at farm gate
P.Pea: P. Pea: 145-617
7-15 Nov.-Feb.

Bea n p- March Oxe, w/plo'- or April Hand Bean: None Continu- Hand Bean: 109-377 Home
Bea pigeon peahan (machete) (,,achete) 43-65 ously (machete) July consumption
P.Pea: P.Pea: 240-435
11-15 Nov-Dec.
Maize: Maize: 196-363
15-22 Aug.-Sep.


all members of the family.

Yields vary among the three crop mixtures and from those

obtained on sole crop systems. Output of bean-maize and

bean-pigeon pea is sold to middlemen. The production from the

bean-pigeon pea-maize crop mixture is consumed at home.


This paper has described the small farming systems in Las

Cuevas watershed of the Dominican Republic. Several important

characteristics, some of them unique to this area, were found.

The role of crop associations in these farming systems was a

relevant finding. For example, 82% of the maize and 90% of the

pigeon peas are grown in association with other crops.

Furthermore, all output from the bean-pigeon pea-maize associ-

ation is devoted to home consumption.

Two systems of mutual help among the farmers were also

found. One consists of the exchange of bean seed between those

harvesting in July-August and those planting in September. The

former conserve the germination quality of the seed and obtain a

50% bonus, while the latter do not need .-;h for seed purchases.

The "convite" system is the means by whiL. farmers harvest their

bean crops without incurring labor expenses. Farmers are willing

to provide their labor because they receive the same help when

they harvest their own crops.

Peanut production, although not profitable, is carried out

as a means of obtaining cash from a loan to subsist during the

period when they do not have another feasible choice.


Although a relatively small amount of all the land in the

watershed is devoted to short-cycle crops, these systems produce

high rates of soil erosion that are unacceptable. Increasing

population pressures are likely to worsen this problem. The

importance of these systems to the farmers' diets precludes any

policy that would prohibit their future production. Perhaps the

problem could be alleviated by the development of improved

technology that would bring about increased production in the

uplands on a smaller land area.


Antonini, G., Ewel, K., Fisher, R., Sartain, J., Hildebrand, P.,

McCoy, T., Safa, H. and Russo, I. (1981) Integrated training

and research program in natural rt-surces management for the

Dominican Republic with special applications for Las Cuevas

watershed. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press.

Hildebrand, P.E. Combining disciplines in rapid appraisal: the

sondeo approach, Agr, Adm. 8 423-432.

Mendenhall, W., Ott, L. and Scheaffer, R. (1971) Elementary sur-

vey sampling. Second Ed. North Srituate, Massachusetts: Dusbury


Ruthenberg, H. (1980) Farming systems in the tropics. Oxford, New

York: Oxford University Press.

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